Mazda’s Departure Doesn’t Necessarily Mean It’s Panic Time For INDYCAR and Ladder Series

INDIANAPOLIS – Mazda released a shocking statement on Tuesday afternoon saying that after nine years of supporting the Mazda Road to Indy program that they won’t be back in 2019. The California based company sated that they would like to focus their resources elsewhere and is terminating their involvement with Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 at the end of the year.

“On behalf of Mazda, I’d like to thank Andersen Promotions and everyone involved with the Road to Indy for a wonderful nine years, but the time has come for Mazda to focus our resources into other areas of our motorsports footprint,” said John Doonan, Director, Mazda Motorsports regarding the future of Mazda’s role in the Road to Indy. We have truly enjoyed our role in developing young racers into Indy 500 hopefuls, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with Andersen Promotions through the Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup. The 2018 USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights champions will receive Mazda Advancement Scholarships for the 2019 season and the annual $200,000 Mazda Road to Indy Global shootout will also be held in December of this season. Motorsports is at the core of Mazda’s DNA and the company remains committed to its variety of motorsports programs in the coming years including our grassroots club racing initiatives, the Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich, the Mazda Road to 24, and Mazda Team Joest.”

While I can see that this would be a time to signal the panic button for all three divisions as well as the Verizon IndyCar Series, INDYCAR’s statement reads that a plan is actually already in place to continue the program or something similar.

“The Road to Indy program has staged great racing over the years while developing teams and drivers for the Verizon IndyCar Series, and that will continue with plans soon to be announced. Mazda has been a transformative partner, and INDYCAR is appreciative of its many contributions.”

The Mazda Road To Indy program has graduated several talented drivers through the ranks and into INDYCAR rides. It was a system that truly worked. Part of the deal was each champion of each series was granted a scholarship to advance to the next step on the ladder. The USF2000 champion would get a scholarship to run the full Pro Mazda season the next year. The Pro Mazda champion would get a deal to race in Indy Lights the next season and the Lights champion would get a 3 race deal plus an Indianapolis 500 seat in INDYCAR. 

While they won’t be involved in 2019, the scholarships will still be granted to this year’s champions. But, what about the future? Right now, we’re a little over seven months away from the season opener. At the moment, there’s no sponsorships in place and no engine deal. The short term outlook looks bleak. Why would any of the current teams want to renew for 2019? What is their ROI? Why spend money on development when there may not be a series to run in? Also, why would a new team want to join?

To further this, what is the future of INDYCAR? How can they get the next wave of drivers without any developmental series’. NASCAR has ARCA, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series as a feeder to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Major League Baseball has A, AA and AAA levels.

Some would say that INDYCAR is looking at nothing.

But, to me, their statement reads the opposite.

That sounds to me like there’s a plan in place to keep this going. They see the value and see the importance of needing these series’ for their long term growth. It sounds like they have something already in the works so that there is stability. That’s why INDYCAR now is in a much better state than INDYCAR from a few years ago. Mark Miles, Jay Frye and company have done a tremendous job of instilling stability and growth. They see the value of that Mazda brought to the MRTI and say “plans” will soon “be announced.”

I trust them.

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